Considering a divorce after quarantine?
The quarantine Stay at Home orders have been tough on everybody, especially families. Small annoyances can blossom into full-blown arguments when everyone is in the same house day after day. Adding to the close quarters stress is the serious financial strain that the entire country is feeling. Divorce after quarantine is unfortunately more than just a popular internet meme.
If you are considering the possibility of leaving your spouse after the quarantine order is lifted, here are five things to think about.
Your “Date of Separation” is really important
When you got married initially you began a community property relationship with your spouse. This means that everything that either of you earned goes toward “the community,” and both of you are entitled to exactly 50% of that community property. This is best explained by examples:
If Wife earns $250,000 per year and Husband earns $10,000 per year, and the couple has saved up $500,000 in a savings account, each spouse is entitled to $250,000 from that savings account. It doesn’t matter that one spouse earned significantly more than the other.
If Wife earns $250,000 per year and Husband loses $50,000 a year as a professional gambler, and the couple has saved up $500,000 in a savings account, each spouse is entitled to $250,000 from that savings account. It doesn’t matter that one spouse earned significantly more than the other.
The date that you formally separate is the day that the community ends. All earnings from that point forward are considered separate property. If Husband and Wife separate on Tuesday and Wife wins the lottery on Wednesday, Husband is out of luck.
You can see how important it is to nail down exactly what the date of separation is. Family Code 70 specifies exactly what is required for a Date of Separation.
If you earn more than your spouse, you are going to owe them spousal support (alimony)
As a couple is divorcing the court will consider whether one spouse needs to pay the other spouse money every month in alimony, which is called spousal support in California. This is based primarily on the difference between the two spouses’ incomes, but in fact there are a host of factors that are considered. Our blog here talks in depth about how this is calculated.
The point I want to make today is that if you make more than your spouse, be prepared to pay them spousal support each month. If you have been married less than ten years you will likely be paying for half the length of the marriage. If your marriage is longer than ten years you will be paying indefinitely…
The California Courts prefer 50/50 custody arrangements
The courts are willing to entertain requests for custody arrangements that differ from 50/50 but be aware that they vastly prefer something close to 50/50. Equal time shared is considered best for the children and if you want to go for something like 80/20 or sole custody, you will need a pretty strong reason. Our blog here discusses the requirements for varying from 50/50 custody.
California is a “no-fault” divorce state
In some states you have to “win” your divorce. In some states the court will consider things like whether one party cheated on the other when they are deciding on property division. California is not one of those states. All divorces here are “no fault” and the court does not want to get into the why of the divorce.
Therefore, arguing that you should get more because your spouse was terrible is not a good idea. Your spouse’s potentially abusive behavior might affect a child custody determination, however, so talk to a great divorce attorney about your specific situation.
You won’t be officially divorced for a while…
Divorce in California usually takes a long time. The law says that it has to take at least six months, though that would be moving very very fast for this state. The idea is that people should have time to ‘take it back’ if they change their minds.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the San Diego Superior Court was scheduling initial hearings sometimes as far as six months away. This means that before we all were put into quarantine the process was dragging into 12-month territory if a judge needed to get involved to solve a dispute.
The Court is now expecting to re-open on May 26th, 2020. Once re-opened they will need to review the tens of thousands of filings that have poured in during the closure and reschedule all of them. Long-story-short it could take a long time until your final divorce decree is signed by a judge. In the meantime, we will figure out custody, property division, spousal support, and everything else relevant. The absolute official sign-off on the divorce though, could be 18 months away or more. Make sure that your divorce attorney provides you with a solid plan of attack on how to manage these extraordinary timelines.
If you want to chat about the possibility of a divorce call Christopher Marshall Law at (858) 964-2324.